The way I see it, if there is a bit of info that is not correct or does not answer the OPs question on meta, it is my duty to downvote.

Nothing personal, its just that the info is noise. No value in it, it would be better if it was deleted.

For example: In this question the new data dump came out and ALL of the answers on the question including mine were wrong. So I went ahead and gave a few -1 votes and posted a correct answer.

This caused a bit of a commotion

My questions are:

  • Why do people take downvotes so personally on meta?
  • If we are not supposed to downvote incorrect information on meta, how do we eliminate noise or express disagreement?
  • 32
    (Resisting the temptation to downvote this question just for giggles.)
    – bigmattyh
    Sep 7, 2009 at 3:29
  • 1
    When I saw my comment downvoted (just now) I just went "Aww" and moved on. Sep 8, 2009 at 4:54
  • 1
    The only thing about downvotes (on any SO/SE site) that annoys me is when there may be a question of correctness but the downvoter doesn't bother explaining what they think is incorrect. The answerer then has no way to learn from mistakes, and no way to know how to address the fact that they may have provided incorrect information that others are might take as correct. Oct 19, 2010 at 7:55
  • @bigmattyh - Aye, it got the best of me. So I had to clear my conscience with bounty Mar 30, 2012 at 22:27
  • @SuperLongNamesAreHilarious What? Downvote conments? Aug 22, 2017 at 16:02

7 Answers 7


Why do people take anything on the internet so seriously?

There is always going to be a segment of users in anything you have that are going to take things way too seriously and associate any sort of disagreement with them as a personal attack.

We have gone over this numerous times on Meta and I don't really know how else one can go about it. I've tried explaining everything as best I can to users who complain about this, but more often than not they are just going to sit back and continue to believe that we are being mean to users and that everybody deserves back pats and gold starts just for being here.

  • Since it's your question, can you accept Sam's answer now that I've deleted mine? Sep 7, 2009 at 2:33
  • @Kyle Cronin: Done
    – TheTXI
    Sep 7, 2009 at 2:40
  • 3
    I've got a silver star just for being here. Working on my gold star..
    – John Fouhy
    Sep 7, 2009 at 2:57
  • 10
    "The fights are so fierce because the stakes are so low" (often said of academia)
    – Argalatyr
    Sep 7, 2009 at 4:43
  • everybody deserves back pats and gold starts just for being here - wait, we don't ? :`{ But I, I... I ... tie my shoes and pay my taxes! sniffle-sniffle Mar 30, 2012 at 21:33

I don't think you can answer the question of why people take downvotes so seriously here; only each individual can answer that for him/herself.

However, meta is weird. Almost everything on meta is subjective; it is essentially a discussion site about the S[OFU] family. The trend here, and I think it's correct, is to downvote the suggestions you disagree with and upvote those you do agree with. The same goes for answers.

Now this isn't to say go on a DV rampage necessarily. Being a mostly positive guy, I tend to only upvote here -- I upvote if I agree with it, and tend to let others DV someone into oblivion for things I disagree with.

Frankly, I think it ought to be right in the FAQ:

Don't get attached to your rep here, and be forewarned: Here there be monsters. On meta, (almost) anything goes.

  • 4
    Downvoting is generally acceptable for disagreement, but I will usually only downvote if I think it is a particularly bad idea or answer. Other times I will just post my own long-winded answers saying why I think it is bad.
    – TheTXI
    Sep 7, 2009 at 2:28
  • You and I are frighteningly similar in that way.
    – John Rudy
    Sep 7, 2009 at 2:30
  • I might be wrong, but I think this is the first time I've been downvoted on meta. Should I take it personally? :-)
    – John Rudy
    Sep 7, 2009 at 2:41
  • 2
    Do you like ponies and ice cream?
    – TheTXI
    Sep 7, 2009 at 2:43
  • I think someone went around and did a whole round of downvotes. Luckily for me I post with such high volume that my upvotes always seem to cancel out all of the downvotes anyway.
    – TheTXI
    Sep 7, 2009 at 2:43
  • 1
    It's like there's a TheTXI on every streetcorner!
    – Shog9
    Sep 7, 2009 at 2:44
  • LOL! And yes, I do like ponies. Specifically, I enjoy betting on them. Especially when I win! :)
    – John Rudy
    Sep 7, 2009 at 4:04

StackOverflow and the whole StackExchange network trains users to love their rep. They want to wear it on T-shirts and have flair on their blogs. Users are pleased when upvoted and sad when downvoted. Gamification is fundamental. Jeff said it's why the place works.

The best users feel an almost physical pain when downvoted on StackOverflow. They fall into deep self examination and look for ways to improve, so they will never be downvoted again.

So, when these users first have an idea about how to change StackOverflow, they visit meta. They submit a question. And maybe they get downvoted, not because the question has poor quality or shows lack of research, but because the meta community don't agree with the suggestion. Their meta rep goes down. They feel pain. Meta is actually "gamified" to discourage suggestions that the meta community disagree with, rather than to encourage well researched suggestions.

This actually contravenes some fundamental laws of customer service and human relations: always make the customer believe you've listened sincerely and you welcome the feedback, even if you're politely explaining why they are wrong.


A comparison:

In real life, most people judge other people by their looks. Its the first thing we see and the human brain is visually oriented. So looks are an easy (not per definition the best) way to act as a sieve for interesting/not interesting people. Most people spend a lot of time maintaining the look. And they are annoyed if the look is disturbed (stains on clothes, bad hair day, pimples etc.).

On the internet we have no looks. Yes we can add a picture, but nothing guarantees that this is the person on the keyboard. So we need another sieve. And that's where reputation kicks in. Reputation acts as a sieve. And just like looks, it isn't the best way, but it works because it is a simple number that can be compared. And there are lots of lists that make comparison easy. So most people spend a lot of time maintaining this number. And they are annoyed if the number is stained by for example a downvote.

So that's a possible explanation for why people taking downvotes seriously. They are like pimples and need to be covered as soon as possible.


It could be the whole edit/wiki thing. You have a high enough arbitrary number next to your name that if you saw an answer that was slightly out of date, and was purely data, that you could have gone in and edited it.

Opinions are another matter, and who knows why people are upset that everybody in the world doesn't agree with them and share the exact same viewpoint on matters.

  • @random, your solution is not really sustainable, there is no carrot given for improving existing info which is not owned by you, so people do not bother (With the exception of Shog9, if I see any post by him that needs a correction, I will correct it, cause I owe that to him). Also, how does this solve the noise problem? Whats the point of having 10 correct answers?
    – waffles
    Sep 7, 2009 at 2:27
  • 1
    That's exactly it - I didn't take the downvote personally, but the correct thing to do would be update the once-correct answer with the new information instead of downvoting it. The former improves the quality of the data, the latter does absolutely nothing to an answer with multiple upvotes (and the accepted check) on a stagnated question. Sep 7, 2009 at 2:31
  • @Kyle, but that leads to having 2 duplicate answers. Which is kind of pointless.
    – waffles
    Sep 7, 2009 at 2:35
  • @Sam: Since this means that much to you, I've deleted my answer and requested that TheTXI accept yours. Sep 7, 2009 at 2:40
  • @Kyle, thanks you didn't have to, the bigger problem is how do we reduce the WALL OF NOISE on meta, without getting on everyones nerves.
    – waffles
    Sep 7, 2009 at 2:43
  • The noise is going to be there because of slightly different views being authored. Go in and add a view point on another person's personal opinion and that would be rubbing them since that totally changes their vision on what pretty much is discussion where there isn't so much right vs wrong but like vs dislike.
    – random
    Sep 7, 2009 at 2:58
  • @random, agree that noise on discussion type questions is unavoidable. But for single data point type questions there is often a single correct factual answer.
    – waffles
    Sep 7, 2009 at 3:02
  • 1
    @Sam: Yes, but meta rarely has a single factual answer. They do exist, but are typically for things like bug reports and feature requests.
    – John Rudy
    Sep 7, 2009 at 4:06

I'm sure I wasn't the first to observe this, but I made a comment a while back along the lines of "Law: Anything which can be measured, will be measured on the internet. First corollary: anything measured on the internet will become the subject of a DSW."

And if measurement counts, subtraction from that measurement hurts even more.


You're all wrong ;-)

"Nothing personal, its just that the info is noise. No value in it, it would be better if it was deleted."

I get pretty ****** pissed when I put 20min effort into a question or answer, just to have it get downmodded because the opinion isn't mainstream. It is personal, because we put our time and effort into it, and you should thank me for my time and effort, not tell me that I wasted my time trying to help you. There's a difference between "better deleted" (downmodding noise/offensive/spam) and "I wish you just hadn't bothered" (downmodding something on topic because its wrong or you disagree).

If SO wants to detach personal feelings, then the rep needs to be redesigned into an activity indicator, which is not a function of opinion. Maybe SO was intended to be a wiki, but in practice it really isn't because an answer is a product of an individual, because the UI makes it that way. If you want it to be wikipedia, don't have any mention of someone's name. If you want to facilitate debate, do it like everything2--a wiki discussion if you will. But as soon as you attribute, it obviously and inevitably becomes personal.

  • @Dustin, when I was talking about "noise" I was talking about data point type questions, like "when will Jon hit 100k" eventually there will be one correct answer and a ton of noise.
    – waffles
    Sep 9, 2009 at 21:39
  • thank you for your time and effort, ! Mar 30, 2012 at 21:36

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